When you meet a new person, one of the very first questions asked is, “What do you do?”
I used to hesitate from blurting out, “I’m a writer” because I wasn’t receiving money to write. How can I “be” something I’m not getting paid to do? That’s not how our society works.
I’d like you to consider another way of thinking. Ask yourself does money need to be exchanged to validate your existence?
The other day someone tweeted me this:
My response was simply, “By doing what you love.” (The Black Board's response is here.)
Then it struck me as sad that so many of us don’t find value in doing what we love. Instead, many feel trapped in jobs we hate because they pay money, yet the thing we do love, we won’t admit is really who we are because it does not pay money.
I hear it all the time. “I’m an engineer. I’m a bank teller. I’m in marketing.” The labels slapped on with a fake smile, hiding the writer who is shackled behind the veneer.
I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to be defined by anything other than who I am in my core… in my essence.
I am a writer.
Try it. Say it right now.
Can’t choke it out yet? OK, let’s keep talking.
Our society uses money as the measure of success. There’s no question we need money to survive. When I was freelance writing, it was brutal querying for gigs constantly, never having one month’s income match the next. The stress level was pushing my blood pressure through the roof and definitely contributed to the amount of wrinkles you'll see in the video below (oh yes, I'm letting you see the real me again!).
But do you know what saved me? Saved my health? Saved my sanity?
I am a writer.
But for us to really feel like writers, we need validation. How can you get validation if you aren’t getting paid?
By people reading your words.
That’s why I have a blog. Writing screenplays and novels can take years. But writing a blog post, I can do in a few hours, tweet it out, and instantly, I’m getting validation by moving people with my words.
That is priceless.
I have perused Amazon and found authors who are self-published, churning books out so fast the quality is atrocious, but they’re making great money. Others are written very well, but sometimes that doesn't translate into dollars. Does that mean one of them is less valuable than the other?
They both have value. Those writers are writing. People are reading their words, money or not.
So I ask you to again consider what “success” really means. Is it the money that lines your pocket, or is it the goosebumps you get when you break story or write an amazing scene?
For me, it’s goosebumps. Hands down.
Sometimes when I interview people I ask how they want to be remembered at the end of their lives. What if you had a choice between people saying one of these two things:
- He was damn good at his job.
- He inspired me by always going after his dreams. Never giving up, despite all the obstacles. He really lived.
Writing is my life, not my job.
Maybe we shouldn’t ask each other, “What do you do for a living?” I’d rather answer the question, “What do you do to feel alive?”
Yeah, I’m a writer. Forever and then some.
Ready to say it? I double-dog dare you to own it.
Since many of you gave me an enthusiastic response to my Control Fear, Just Write video, I wanted to make you another one on the topic of What is Success? It's embedded directly into this post, so just click on the image below, sit back and watch me share the moment I realized I was indeed a writer.
Please add your own personal experience and advice in the comment section so we can help keep each other sane as we pursue our dreams. After all, if we aren't a supportive community, what's the point?
- More Balls of Steel articles by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman
- Balls of Steel: Balance
- The Freelance Writer's Bible: Your Guide to a Profitable Writing Career Within One Year
Watch ScriptMag Editor Share Her Advice on Facing Your Writing Fears
Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares her personal story of facing her fears in order to propel her writing and her career. Click on the image below to watch Jeanne's advice. In just eight minutes, you might have a whole new perspective.